By this point in our climb on the Carter Mountain Access Road we were in that strange no-man's land between elevation and high elevation.
We were still in predominantly grassland and sage country, but could see the line of tall, healthy pine trees up ahead and knew that we were preparing to climb into beautiful forest.
Looking further into the mountains we could where the trees stopped.
Where all growth stopped.
No more trees or grass or sage. Only rock.
It was all up ahead of us, and I looked forward to climbing higher and higher still, always wondering what we would find. I stole a glance at LC as he drove and smiled at him, knowing that he liked this journey as much as I did..................
A look back the way we had come.
The climb was slow and steady, and the gravel road was smooth and well maintained.
LC guessed (and I bet he is right), that the state maintains the road for the private land owner (who owns all of this beautiful), in return for allowing public access to the mountains.
The climb was gradual, unlike some of the very steep, switchback filled roads we had taken in the past............
A couple of times on the way up the road I asked LC to stop the truck so that I could pee.
Squatting beside the truck I was continually watchful. This was straight up grizzly country and we were both carrying 454's, which I hoped we would never have to use.
There are bears all over the South Fork. Ranch owners and ranch hands out this way never walk outside without carrying both bear spray and a side arm. The elementary school further down the South Fork is surrounded by a very high fence to keep bears out. Sightings are more common than not.
I had a long talk with a retired law enforcement officer only a couple of weeks ago.
He was on the force in Maryland for 30 years, retired and bought a home and 40 acres in Clark.
Not long after he moved out to Clark he was walking on Shoshone National Forest land with a buddy of his.
I don't remember why but they separated.
The retired cop was walking alone and a grizzly literally came out of nowhere and attacked him.
He didn't even see it coming.
His jaw was completely torn away from the rest of his face and he was knocked out.
When he regained consciousness he was bleeding badly, had his jaw laying on his chest, had double vision, but could see the bear standing and watching him only 100 yards away.
Even though he was badly injured and could barely see, this man managed to shoot and kill the bear.
His friend ran to him when he heard the gun shots, called the wife of the retired cop, who called the local fire department only a mile away.
By the time the friend and the injured man made it back to the house the fire department was there waiting for him.
They stabilized him and drove him to the ambulance that was waiting on the Belfry Highway.
The ambulance drove the injured man to the nearest hospital in Powell where they life flighted him to Billings.
The man was in the hospital for two weeks.
This happened two years ago, he has a long scar running from the top of his jaw to the bottom of his chin, and still has leg tremors and other residual side affects from the attack.
While peeing beside the truck I was watchful, but then looked up and smiled as I saw two deer watching me.
Click on the picture and it will enlarge............
Finally, and after a long, slow and very wonderful drive we realized with disappointment that we had climbed by truck just as far as we could go.
At a road intersection we saw that the right fork led down to the closed gate of private property, and the left fork that led further up the mountain was closed to mechanized traffic.
I knew that there was so much more to see up ahead, but that we would not be seeing it on this day...................
LC and I climbed out of the truck, and as I grabbed for my dog I also grabbed her bowl and bottle of water, knowing that after such a long climb Jamie would be thirsty.
She eagerly jumped out, always ready to explore.
I walked over to the opposite side of the road, and could see the rest of the world "down there" visible through the trees..........
I snapped this quick picture, thinking at the time that it was just some random animal hole.
Walking a few yards along the length of the same hill though, I was surprised to realize that the hole I had seen was actually the entrance to a small animal tunnel.
I smiled as I looked at the additional opening.
I wrote one day not long ago, during one our trips out to the Shoshone National Forest, that nature is filled with endless animal stories.
When you see an animal, it's nothing more than a wonderful and simple and unexpected sighting.
But when you stop and actually watch for a few moments (or longer than a few moments), you realize that these animal sightings have nuatural stories attached to them, that seem to evolve all by themselves.................
I always like being in the mountains.
Separate and apart from the rest of the world, that exists somewhere "down there"...................
The large circular parking area that either stops you from continuing further into the mountains, or provides you with a staging area to mount either bicycles or horses...............
We eagerly began to wander.
Down the dirt road, and then wandering off into the grass on both sides of the road.............
Fragile wild flowers growing in clumps in the grass...............
My expectations are sky low, because I’m standing on a mountaintop........Jarod Kinz